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Sunday Reflections: Endings and Beginnings

Today I am writing you this post from Ohio. On Saturday, I will drop Riley off at Ohio University for her Freshman year of college. To tell you that I am feeling feelings would be an understatement.

On Friday night, we had our last family dinner of four around our dining room table for the last time in a while. We laid in bed together and watched our last family movie as a family of four in our home for a while. And I tucked her in and kissed her good night for the last time in what may probably be forever.

And then I laid in my bed and cried myself to sleep.

As I look over at her, I am full of emotions. It has been a complicated year and a half for everyone, and for us as a family. There were days when I feared that her mental health issues combined with the weight of the pandemic would crush her. There were nights where we prayed together that my father, her beloved grandfather, would survive Covid. And then there was the very darkest of times, when he passed away mere days before he would get to watch her graduate. An ending that we did not want to face.

Riley, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Well, a time long ago.

Many things ended for us this year. Some of them were things that are supposed to end, like high school. Others were things we were not equipped to end. And even the things that ended did not end in the ways that we were expecting them to. This year has been emotionally complex and heavy.

Like teens all over the world, Riley had to face her senior year in the midst of a deadly global pandemic. Every thing was different. One day we will have to have real conversations with ourselves and each other about the emotional toll that the pandemic has had on our youth. How they were denied the rituals of closure that spent their lives looking forward to. How they didn’t get to say goodbye to their old life in meaningful ways before say hello to the next stage of life.

On Friday, we took Riley to say goodbye to one of her best friends in the world. She had to stand on the street and wave hello from the distance because her friend had tested positive for Covid. There were no goodbye hugs, just Covid waves and tears from a distance. Just another thing tainted by the stains of Covid.

Riley says goodbye, from a safe distance

On Saturday, she begins a new chapter of her life in still uncertain times. Because the adults in this world could not follow the advice of scientists and could not demonstrate compassion to one another, she does not know what her freshman year of college will be like. We are in the midst, once again, of a horrific Covid spike, this one affecting our youth in far greater numbers and with far greater consequence. And for me, as a mom, I have the fear that she may get Covid when I am far too far away from her to help her navigate a health crisis of this magnitude.

I am feeling feelings and they are complicated. Pride. Love. And fear. So much fear. Fear of her mental health in a new environment so far away from home, from me. Fear of her physical health in a deadly global pandemic. Fear that some boy (or man) will do some horrific thing to her because I am fully aware of the statistics regarding sexual abuse in college. Fear of a flood or fire because of climate change.

It is an honor to be her mother. I love her in ways that I never knew you could love another human being. I need you to help me create a world in which she can not only survive, but thrive. I need us all to do better for her and her friends. We need to do better for our youth.

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